The Arlington Community Public Library Club
With 556 books on its shelves, the Arlington Library (now known as the Columbia Pike Branch), opened to the public in April 1930. Plans for the library officially began at the October 9, 1929 meeting of the Arlington Community Public Library Club (ACPLC), at the home of Edith Collier, with 12 of the 43 charter members—all of whom were women—in attendance.
The women of the ACPLC used the money raised from membership dues to rent, refurbish, and equip a double garage on Bingham Road (which became South Fillmore Drive in 1935) near the Patrick Henry School that would house the library from 1930 until early 1933.
Edith Collier, who was elected as the first librarian, took a course in Richmond to learn how to catalog books. A 1935 history of the ACPLC proudly states that when they opened all of their books were numbered and classified and that at that time the Arlington Library was the only public library in the County operating on a classification system.
The ACPLC’s purpose was to “establish a library service that would provide good reading for the children” in South Arlington. To accomplish this purpose, the women hosted afternoon teas for Sunday school classes and an after-school storytime led by Miss Ethel Morrison (later Mrs. Ethel Handy) who “was specially adept at storytelling.” 150 books in the Library's collection were on loan from the Virginia State Library. The other 406 had been obtained through the ACPLC’s work soliciting funds and donations from local businesses and organizations in the 6 months between the ACPLC’s formation and the library’s opening. Collection material and services quickly expanded to serve citizens of all ages in South Arlington.
Outgrowing its first home, the Arlington Library moved to the abandoned Columbia School on the corner of Columbia Pike and South Walter Reed Drive (re-named Community Hall) in April 1933, where the ACPLC installed additional shelving to accommodate the growing collection. At this time, the Arlington County Government became involved with the Library’s operation, helping to pay the increased rental cost of the new location.
The Arlington County Library Association Appoints a County Librarian
In the summer of 1936, the Arlington Library joined the other volunteer libraries in the County to form the Arlington County Library Association (ACLA) whose intent was to create a County library system—an idea the ACPLA had been discussing since late 1934. That same summer, the Arlington County Board appropriated $3,000 toward the purchase of reference books and supplies at each library. The ACLA secured the same amount from the County for the Fiscal Year 1937-1938, at which point the libraries became unified in a department under the authority of the County Board who appointed a trained librarian, Miss Eleanor Leonard, as County Librarian.
In tribute to the women who spear-headed and operated the county’s libraries prior to 1937, a November 10, 1939 Sun article stated that,
"too much credit cannot be given the many Arlington women who have donated long and liberally of their time and effort in building up the various county libraries and in keeping them open…working year in and year out, with small encouragement except their own pride in doing a job they think ought to be done for the good of their community, these volunteer library workers have built up a fine county-wide system."